Alberta town grapples with how to deal with violence, reach out to young people

An Alberta community is reaching out to young people who may be despondent about homicides in the hope of preventing future violence.

EDSON — An Alberta community is reaching out to young people who may be despondent about homicides in the hope of preventing future violence.

The town of Edson has been holding meetings with RCMP, local schools, Alberta Child and Family Services and Yellowhead County on how to let youth know where they can get help.

“We are immediately concerned for the well-being of many youth in Edson and the surrounding Yellowhead County area who may have become despondent in light of the horrific incidents that have taken place in our region over the last 18 months,” reads a community safety statement posted on the town’s website.

“This, coupled with the local downturn in the economy, has put a great deal of pressure on families in and around Edson.”

Earlier this month Edson RCMP charged Tyrell Perron, 21, with first-degree murder in the death of a 14-year-old girl.

In November, Mounties charged Mickell Bailey, 19, with two counts of first-degree murder and one count of second-degree murder in a the deaths of three people in a rural area outside of the town. One of the victims was a 16-year-old girl.

Edson Mayor Greg Pasychny said the effects of these crimes continue to ripple through the area.

He said community officials are struggling with how to best connect with people between the ages of 18 and 24 who are not in school, do not have jobs and who are having emotional difficulty.

“We basically want to take back our community,” he said Wednesday. “Why are we having these issues in our community? How do we fix it?”

The town has posted phone numbers of six organizations that help people with problems involving addictions, parenting and mental health on its website.

Edson is also developing a special Facebook page and is looking at other ways it can use social media to reach young people.

“We are trying to heal,” he said.

Gerald Soroka, mayor of Yellowhead County, said there are no easy answers to the problems affecting communities in the region that partly depend on the slumping oil, natural gas and coal industries.

He said violence, unemployment, alcohol and drug problems are affecting many areas across Canada.

Soroka said the key will be getting people to help a family member or a neighbour to seek the assistance they need.

“We are years away from ever getting this to a state where we can look back and say, ‘My goodness, look at where we have come from to where we are today.”

RCMP were not immediately available for comment.

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